Ploughing on through the jargon blizzard

9th March 2007 at 00:00
Mike Kentis head of Comber Grove primary in Camberwell, south London

"Sir, look, it's snowing! Can we go outside and play in the snow? Can we build a snowman? Can we learn about snowflakes? Can we write some poems and paint some snow pictures? Go on, sir! We haven't seen any snow in the playground since 2001."

"Sorry, Year 6. We've far more important things to do. After all, Sats week will be here before long, and you've all got lots of targets to reach. What we in the trade call 'hoops to jump through'. I'm afraid you'll have to stop looking out of the window. Just pretend the snow isn't there."

"But sir, who decides all these things we have to do?"

"It's called the Department for Education and Skills, Julia. You see, there are thousands of people working there who do exciting things such as sitting in front of computer screens all day, looking at graphs and charts and funny things we call statistics, and they can tell just how many children in every school in the country aren't reaching something called level 4.

"They get worried, and then people in little teams come and visit schools very suddenly. They have smart clothes because they haven't been near the paint pots for a long time, and plastic smiles on their faces, and sometimes they make teachers cry."

"That sounds awful, sir. I think I'll get a job in the DfES and ask why we can't go out in the snow."

"Good thinking, Harry. The only thing is, you'd have to learn a special language because people in the DfES speak in a rather funny way.

"I'm glad you asked, though, because this morning, for our literacy lesson, I've got a job description for a vacancy at the DfES, and I thought we'd try to work out what the sentences mean..."

"Sir, does it say: 'Wanted: a clever person to help think of ways to make Year 6 exciting and enjoyable?'"

"I'm afraid not, Sharon. The job is for something called a strategic internal communications adviser."

"Does that mean somebody who can tell everybody else how to use the telephone?"

"I don't think so, Rashid. It says that the person would have to 'deliver a communications strategy and an agreed set of standards for reputation management and corporate print and branding'."

"I don't agree with branding, sir. I saw them do some of that to cows in a John Wayne film."

"It's not that sort of branding, Michael."

"What is it then, sir?"

"It's...well I actually, I haven't a clue. Let's look a little further. Ah, it says the person would have to 'share insight to help inform strategies with an understanding of robust communications', and this would be achieved by 'cascading key information within a rapidly changing environment while delivering extensive change'."

"So what would that mean if it was written in English, sir?"

"It would mean the person getting the job would have to chat to people and help everybody understand what was going on. Then they'd come up with lots of good ideas to improve things."

"So, why don't they just say that?"

"Because they don't like to use one word when 300 big ones will do. And just think, our poor headteacher has to read lots of things like that all day long."

"Is that why he's often fast asleep with his head in the pending tray, sir?"

"I think it must be, Brian. Anyway, back to the lesson..."

"Sir... could we... do you think... would it be possible..."

"Absolutely, Janice. Let's all go and play in the snow."

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